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Not All Engagements Are Created Equal

We’ve all been there before. You’re sitting in a meeting letting a client know how wonderful your plan is because it delivered “x” number of engagements when the client asks what it means. What is the definition of an engagement? There really are no simple answers.


There is only, well...it really depends on the program. It can be a click, it can be a full video view, it can be an email open. But these things are all very different. So why do we quantify them the same? We shouldn’t and Underscore no longer will.


Not all engagements are created equal and we need to look at it from every angle: are they third party content engagements vs. branded content engagements; what’s the true value of the engagement; do they align with the client's strategic imperatives; is a partner underestimating the level of engagements (because believe me, this happens.)


We find that many partners count an engagement as when an HCP lands on the content of their website and our banners happen to be surrounding it. Now don’t get me wrong, this is great that the HCP is getting educated on the disease and/or treatment options and even better that we are aligning with this message and getting brand awareness. But it is simply brand awareness. We are taking a stance in 2020 and not considering something an engagement until the target engages with a client's unbranded or branded content. If we want to move the needle and drive action, we need to engage our targets with the brand's educational content in a deeper way.


Defining an engagement is only part of the solution. The next hurdle is finding common ground and point of comparison across media partners and programs. By evaluating each program by specific interactions, we can eliminate inflated engagement goals and derive the true cost per engagement (CPE). In order to ensure an apples-to-apples comparison between partners and programs, Underscore implemented a tiered engagement scale aimed at simplifying CPE comparisons.


At the lowest level each engagement counts as 1 point on the measurement scale. These are programs where branded content lives within the ad unit only and the engagement only occurs with a click on an ad unit that drives to brand.com (e.g. display banners, text drivers, eNewsletters).


At the medium level each engagement counts as 2 points on the measurement scale. These programs include non-display and custom programs that contain more brand messaging than just a banner. However, engagement is still largely based on brand site action (e.g. alerts, emails, expandable banner ads).


When we reach the highest level, each engagement counts as 3 points on the measurement scale and these include custom programs that focus on interaction and driving to brand site is not the main goal. Engagement occurs within the user flow without the need to click through to brand.com (e.g. quizzes, hosted branded video, content journeys).


Engagements for these types of programs will only be counted as 3 points if the HCP completes at least one quiz question, watches at least 30 seconds of the video, etc. If an HCP just opens the content the engagement will be counted as 2 points. Armed with a tiered scale for defining engagements, the Underscore team takes a firm stance with media partners and pushes for more meaningful guaranteed engagements.


Underscore doesn’t stop there. We realize that it's not always just about the quantity of the engagement, but the quality. Do these engagements help our clients reach their KPIs? If the goal is to drive traffic to the branded site and have HCPs sign up for more information, we will prioritize the low engagement tactics over the medium and high. If we know that the branded site has limited information, we will avoid driving to it and find other ways to deploy educational materials through medium and high-level engagements.


Coming out of 2019 we have seen too many partners let us know that they are going to deliver a certain number of engagements only to finish the year out at 2x or 3x that number. While we're not here to complain about our delivery, it begs the following question. Are you underestimating the program to protect yourself from under-delivery? We now push back on these partners, using historical data, to get a more realistic engagement projection going into planning. Without this, we cannot give our clients a clear picture of how their campaign will perform and forecast out the year appropriately.


At Underscore we want what is best for our clients and in order to get there, we will only count engagements with brand content, define it accurately using our engagement scale, make sure all engagements align with the brand's strategic imperatives and push back on our partners for accurate forecasting. By doing this we are now armed with a simple answer when we find ourselves getting asked “But what does that mean?"


Michelle Humes, Associate Director, Media at Underscore Marketing - a worldwide strategic media company providing ROI solutions in the health & wellness, healthcare, and pharma space.

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